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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

It's not easy going on the road without a starting point guard.

The Gators, who played without the injured Lonnika Thompson on Sunday, learned that lesson in their 83-71 loss at Mississippi State.

They had 26 turnovers against the Bulldogs, their highest total in a Southeastern Conference game this season. Sophomore guard Jennifer Mossor made her second start of the season in place of Thompson.

Thompson averages just 3.7 points in 16.7 minutes per game, but UF assistant coach Susie Gardner said the Gators missed more than just her offensive production.

"We didn't really know if we were going to have Lonnika until the last minute," Gardner said. "What that does is hurt our rotation. … You like to have Jen Mossor coming off the bench because you have that security blanket, that 'hey, we're going to have some scoring happening (off the bench).'"

Mossor had a career-high 20 points in 32 minutes of action. Her move to the starting lineup put a damper on UF's bench production, however.

The Gators got just 3 points from their bench compared to the Bulldogs' 15.

Gardner also noted what impact the move had on junior guard Sha Brooks, who was forced to fill in at point guard for most of the game.

"Lonnika allows Sha to get in the flow of the game and not play the point," Gardner said.

TOURNEY WATCH: UF (15-9, 4-5 SEC) continues to flirt with the NCAA Tournament with five regular-season games remaining and is tied for sixth in the SEC with Georgia.

Thursday's win against Auburn looked like it would give the team momentum, and it lowered the team's RPI into the 30s, according to The Web site's founder, Jerry Palm, moved the Gators into his projected bracket Sunday morning for the first time this season as a No. 12 seed - but as one of his last four teams in the field.

Then, UF lost to a team it probably should have defeated &mdsh; Mississippi State (15-9, 3-6 SEC, 99 RPI) &mdsah; and its RPI rose back to 43.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox analyst Charlie Creme left the Gators out of his bracket Monday for the first time in two weeks, listing UF as one of his last four teams out.

Sixteen members of the media and former coaches gathered at a NCAA-sanctioned event Thursday and Friday to learn about the tournament selection process, according to analyst Mechelle Voepel.

The group decided on its own pool of 64 teams, although it did not seed the entire field.

Voepel wrote that UF was one of six teams "who got significant discussion" but did not make the field of 64, although the bracket was made without the results from either game last week.

One member of the committee that would be familiar to Gainesville is former UF coach Carolyn Peck.

The "magic number" to make the NCAA Tournament is usually a .500 record in conference play. With a minimum of 15 conference games (14 regular-season plus at least a first-round SEC Tournament matchup), the Gators probably need at least four more wins but have only two games remaining at home.

1,000 POINT PALS: With her 10 points Sunday, junior forward Marshae Dotson eclipsed the millennium mark in career points, joining junior guard Sha Brooks - who passed the point earlier this season.

This is the first time UF has had two 1,000-point scorers since the 1999-2000 season, which featured three such players, who coincidentally all hit the mark in the same season as well.

ETC: The Gators, who face the Bulldogs on Thursday, are 3-6 all-time on Valentine's Day. The last time UF played on Cupid's holiday was in 2002, when it defeated Kentucky 81-59. … Thursday's game will also be the third and final Think Pink game UF will participate in. Last week's games against Auburn and Mississippi State were the other two contests. The initiative, sponsored by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, looks to raise awareness about breast cancer.

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